“Oh My God, You Look Gorgeous”. Polite but Inappropriate? A Gendered Exploration of Compliment Perceptions Among Young Irish Adults
Keywords:Pragmatics, Compliments, Perceptions, Gender, Irish English
Set against the backdrop of the #metoo movement which has positioned inter-gender communication as a “locus of struggle” (Watts, 2003, p. 21) with respect to what constitutes appropriate means of communication, the current study aims to shed light on how young Irish adult females and males aged 18-25 perceive gendered compliments in terms of politeness and appropriateness. A questionnaire was developed using 24 compliments from a corpus of compliments generated from Irish participants of the same age (Marnane, 2020). Of the compliments presented, half originated from females and other half from males and they were evenly distributed between appearance and performance compliments. The participants were blinded to the gender of the complimenters, and although the situations were provided, it was not explicitly stated which compliments were appearance based and which were performance based. Participants were subsequently asked to rate the compliments in terms of politeness and appropriateness. A total of 150 replies were received which included 60 self-identifying males and 90 self-identifying females. The study finds that not only do Irish males and females perceive compliments differently but that these differences relate to compliment type and the gender of the person receiving the compliment. It is hypothesised that the differences between Irish males and females’ compliment perceptions are due to gendered enactment of compliments as well as changing cultural norms.
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